What Is Buddhism?

                                What Is Buddhism? 佛教問答

Q: What is Buddhism?

A: Buddhism is a spiritual education and practice for over 300 million people around the world. The word comes from “budhi” (to awaken). It has its origins about 2500 years ago when the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, himself was awakened at the age of 35, and known as The Buddha.

Q: Is Buddhism a Religion?

A: Buddhism is an education, because Buddhism was originated after  Siddhartha Gautama attained Buddhahood / Enlightenment, begun to teach people how to achieve complete spiritual freedom, develop superior wisdom and universal compassion.

It was an education until about 300 years ago, it became recognized as a religion to pacify the general public tendency for worshipping. However, the ultimate intend is to help everyone to transcend spiritual and emotional suffering, and through mind training to develop wisdom, to be spiritual free, to live a life of inner peace and joy.

Q: How can Buddhism benefit me?

A: Buddhism offers the teachings of how to see the true nature of reality, a systematic steps of understanding and methods of practice, that lead to attainment of true happiness.

Q: Why Buddhism has become popular in Western World?

A: Albert Einstein said it best; “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. it should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both natural and spiritual, it should be based on religious sense arising from experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs ( and spiritual needs),   it would be Buddhism.    

Buddhism has no boundary, not limited to certain country, race, language, gender, or religion; Asians practice Buddhism, Asians can become enlightened, Westerners practice Buddhism, Westerners can become enlightened, Africans practice Buddhism, Africans can become enlightened, Christians practice Buddhism, Christians can become enlightened, and so on…

Q: Briefly, who was the Buddha?

A: An Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, born into a royal family, in about 563 BC, at age 25, he realized that there were immense sufferings in all living beings, with great compassionate he intend to seek out methods to liberate all sentient beings sufferings. After six years of study and intense meditation, he attained superior seeing, understanding the of causes for suffering and found methods to end the sufferings. After Enlightenment, he spent the rest of his life teaching Dharma ( ” the way” or “Truth” ) until his death ( Nirvana / deathless death ) at age of 80.

Q: Was the Buddha a God?

A: Buddha was a man who taught the Path to enlightenment based on his own experience. He did not claim to be a GOD, or creator of all things. He did point out that everyone has Buddha nature, which is divine and sound, capable of achieving true happiness.

Q: Are there different types of Buddhism?

A: There are many different traditions of Buddhism, changes of ways of practice have been made to accommodate different countries , different languages, different customs and cultures. But the essence of the teachings (Dharma / Truth ) is the same.

Q: Do Buddhism try to convert people of other religions?

A: Buddhism has the belief system which encompasses all other religions that teaches moral ethics, love and kindness. Buddhism teaches one to develop superior wisdom and compassion, to attain true long term happiness.

Buddhism does not concern with labels like Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, or Hindu etc. Buddhist are quite “Lay-back”, they do not go out to preach and try to convert, they only teach by “Request”.

Q: What did the Buddha teach?

A: The essence of the Buddha’s teaching are the Four Noble Truth and the Eight Fold Path.

Four Noble Truth explain how to identify the true reality and how to eliminate all types sufferings, to achieve spiritual freedom. The Eight fold Path is the “Prescription / Instructions” how to purify our body, speech, and mind, to clear all obstacles in our own life, and help others.

Q: What are the Buddhist Precepts?

A: There are many precepts in the Buddhism, the main five precepts are (1) Not to take life of any living beings, (2) Not to take anything which is not given, (3) refrain from untrue speech, divisive speech, meaningless speech. (4) Refrain from sexual misconduct, (5) Refrain from any intoxication, which is harmful to the pure mind.

Q: What is Karma?

A: Karma is the law of cause and effect, every action, or intention , good or bad, generate an imprint within our deep consciousness, which dictates our future becoming, rich or poor, degree of joy and suffering etc.

Q: What is difference between Wisdom and Intelligence?

A: Wisdom is one with clear insight of true reality, with trace of delusion. Intelligence is very knowledgeable and ability to solve problems. Buddhism emphasize develop wisdom with compassion as “Two Wings” because the two must be balanced. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool, and at the other extreme, you could become a dangerous Wiseman.

Q: How do I become a Buddhist?

A: Buddhist emphasize “Lineage” , when you make commitment to yourself that you want to study Buddhism, first, seek out a qualified teacher, one who has complete understanding of Dharma, and exhibits good qualities of a teacher. Go and pay respect, request for Teachings ( “Take Refuge” / become a Buddhist student).

Buddhist students wish to attain some level of achievement, requires long term commitment, patience, and diligence. Because the Buddha taught Dharma ( the Truth / Path) forty nine years, the information is vast as the ocean, it takes time and effort to study and comprehend those essence of true meanings, and to apply them in our daily life. Buddhist practice is to learn, test and prove-to-be-true practice. Buddhism teach us the solutions to our own problems within, not outside ourselves.

  Who is The Buddha? 誰是佛

“The Buddha” refers to The Buddha Shakyamuni (Prince Siddhartha Gautama )

Also; ” Buddha” is also refers to “The Enlightened One”.

About the Prince Siddhartha Gautama : The times of Gautama’s birth and death are uncertain: most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE,[. Siddhartha Gautama was born as a Kshatriya, the son of Śuddhodana, “an elected chief of the Shakya clan“, His mother, Queen Maha Maya was a Koliyan princess.

Legend has it that, on the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a White elephant with six white tusks entered her right side, and ten months later Siddhartha was born.

As was the Shakya tradition, when his mother Queen Maya became pregnant, she left Kapilvastu for her father’s kingdom to give birth. her son is said to have been born on the way, at Lumbini, in a garden beneath a Sal tree. The Buddha’s mother died seven days after His birth.

The infant was given the name Siddhartha meaning “he who achieves his aim”. During the birth celebrations, the hermit seer Asita journeyed from his mountain abode and announced that the child would either become a great king (chakravartin) or a great holy man. By traditional account, this occurred after Siddhartha placed his feet in Asita’s hair and Asita examined the birthmarks. Śuddhodana held a naming ceremony on the fifth day, and invited eight Brahmin scholars to read the future. All gave a dual prediction that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.

Early life and marriage: Siddhartha was brought up by his mother’s younger sister, Maha Pajapati. By tradition, he is said to have been destined by birth to the life of a prince, and had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) built for him. Although more recent scholarship doubts this status, his father, said to be King Śuddhodana, wishing for his son to be a great king, have shielded him from religious teachings and from knowledge of human suffering.

When he reached the age of 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yaśodharā . According to the traditional account, she gave birth to a son, named Rāhula. Siddhartha is said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu. Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal.

Departure and ascetic life: At the age of 29, Accompanied by his servant Channa and riding his horse Kanthaka, Gautama quit his palace for the life of a mendicant. It’s said that, “the horse’s hooves were muffled by the gods” to prevent guards from knowing of his departure.

Siddhartha left his palace to meet his subjects. Despite his father’s efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering, Siddhartha seen an old man. When asked, his charioteer Channa explained to him that all people grew old, the prince went on further trips beyond the palace, he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These depressed him, and he initially strove to overcome aging, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic.

Gautama initially went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street. After King Bimbisara’s men recognized Siddhartha and the king learned of his quest, Bimbisara offered Siddhartha the throne. Siddhartha rejected the offer, but promised to visit his kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment.

He left Rajagaha and practiced under two hermit teachers of yogic meditation. After mastering the teachings of Alara Kalama (Skr. Ārāḍa Kalama), he was asked by Kalama to succeed him. However, Gautama felt unsatisfied by the practice, and moved on to become a student of yoga with Udaka Ramaputta (Skr. Udraka Rāmaputra). With him he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness, and was again asked to succeed his teacher. But, once more, he was not satisfied, and again moved on.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya are then said to have set out to take their austerities even further. They tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practicing self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path.

There was a lady musician playing music on a boat passing by, singing that when the string is too loss, it will not play, yet, if it’s too tide, it will break, it must be fine tuned just right….. after he heard that and contemplated, he realized the path to Enlightenment is The Middle Way. Then there was a herder girl came by saw this emaciated being sitting, she thought he was a spirit here to bless her, so she made an offering of rice milk to the Prince / acetic, after taking some food, he felt much better, set out to accomplish the goal of finding a solution to human sufferings He sat under the budhi tree ,

with right hand touching the ground, vowed not to get up until he reach Enlightenment. Throughout the night, he experienced challenges from Maya’s and demon’s disturbance, he remained detached, cutting through his own delusions, and remained clear minded, total aware of all events appearing, he was immoveable , in deep “jhāna” meditation.   At dawn, he saw a huge bright star in the sky, he “watched his previous lives, as different types of animals, as human, as King, prince ……. at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it.

He saw how beings trapped in the cycle of existence due to cause and effect / Karma; and realized that all beings are capable of free themselves from sufferings; He attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhāna.These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths“, which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or “defilements” (kilesas).

Awakening: According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative dhyana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn’t work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, or the Noble Eightfold Path, as was identified and described by the Buddha in his first discourse, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra. In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.

Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a Pipal tree—now known as the Budhi tree—in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and became undisciplined, they all left him. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment. According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or “Awakened One” (“Buddha” is also translated as “The Enlightened One”).

 

About quantumted

I’m a 54 year old teacher in Charlotte, NC. I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for 3 years now. I’ve learned a lot, but have a lot to learn. My guru is Grand Master Lu.

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